Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Blogger: Do you really own your eBooks?

James Anderson

This is our first guest blogger, my big brother, JAMES!! And not only that, but he's also the first MALE blogger on our site. (He says he's gotta represent!) Give him a warm welcome's my brother....Mr. James Anderson...........take it away:

There is a revolution going on, but it is not what you think.  Or maybe, if you are one of the people who are as disappointed with commercial eBooks as I am, it is.  There is a great misconception being propagated in the world of eBooks my friends, and it is the idea of ownership.

And the cruel reality of the eBook marketplace is that you do not in fact own your eBooks. You did read your Amazon Kindle’s User Agreement right?: “Unless otherwise specified, Digital Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider [Amazon].”  (Now I am going to single out Amazon here, but all of the big eBook distributors have equally claustrophobic language on their websites.)

The misconception lies in the fact that you buy an eBook.  Buying implies ownership.  There is also the matter of the way Amazon presents Kindle books on its website.  eBooks are “sold by: insert random publisher name here,” and if  I would like to I can “Buy now with [just] 1-click.”  The verbage doesn’t matter however, this all boils down to a long-term rental agreement.

Every day I read blogs raving about eBooks.  People are re-buying the books they already own in print as well as new books all in digital format and for virtually the same price as a print book.  It comes as no surprise that in 2010 Amazon has sold more eBooks than print books.  To these people I ask: What happens 20 or 30 years from now?  Will Amazon and Barnes and Noble still be around housing your digital libraries?  Maybe, but there is a good chance these companies will not be around forever.  And, when they go, so does your library of books (in the current model).  Unless 20 years from now you still carry around your archaic Kindle or Nook from 2011 and never erase its memory.

It all comes down to DRM (Digital Rights Management).  These are the programs that put restrictions on the files you download.  These are the same restriction programs that used to be on mp3 downloads before the music distributors wised up and realized the restrictions only encourage piracy and keeping the prices low and the content free encourages business and discourages piracy.  Has the publishing industry learned nothing from the music industry?

What I find interesting is that Amazon beat iTunes to the punch by releasing DRM-free music first.  And by offering the consumer DRM-free songs, they took market share away from Apple.  Ironically though, Amazon has learned nothing from this, and now sells DRM eBooks.

Not to mention the other downsides of eBooks including the fact you can’t lend them to friends or print them legally.

I am a tech geek.  I wait in moderately long lines for the newest tech gadgets.  I spend way too much money on stuff I don’t need, but desperately want.  I am also an avid reader and writer. And, being from the ADD generation I want everything yesterday.  I am the prime target demographic for eBooks and eReaders, and so far I am not impressed.

To me there is nothing like holding the physical book.  I love that new book smell, the fresh printed inks and various types of paper.  The feel of each textured piece of paper comforts me.  Most of all, I like owning books.  My bookshelves are jam packed with years of collecting.

Like many others who have come before me, I am drawing a line in the sand.  The revolution continues through me in this blog.  May the eBooks be liberated, and may balance return to the force.

What say you?